Saturday, February 28, 2009

Curiously enlightened

It has been a good 8 weeks or so of teaching for me... so far, as I go back to the basics of design with my younger charges. I guess it is sometimes more fun to teach about the rudiments of design to the younger students, compared to the old. It has its limitations though, but all in all, it has been a rather enjoyable, enlightening, and more importantly, enriching experence for me. Nearing towards the end of the term, i do at times recollect and reflect about the things that I have taught, the things that I have learnt, (yesh you definitely can learn a thing or two from these kids), and the things that I think I could do, or could have taught better. 'It is all about the students' the mantra that I still stick by whenever I plan for any of my lessons, because no matter how interesting the lessons could be, from your own opinion, if the very people that you target your lessons to find it uninspiring, then I guess IT IS unsinspiring. And what I like about teaching these bunch is their honesty...I mean seriously what kind of profession gives you that dose of realism and honesty every single day, every single waking hour, of every single lesson that you conduct besides teaching. And as I sit back over the weekend, with books and journals to mark and grade, I would definitely like to sit back, and reflect upon my practices, and perhaps, just perhaps, think of ways to become an even better teacher in my next place of work!

Friday, February 27, 2009

This thing about resilience

It had been a rather frustrating past week for me, with all the requests by some of the students, and their parents, regarding their requests for the dropping of their O level subjects. What frustrates me is not so much about the request per se, but more so on the mental model that these 'droppers' seems to have regarding their subject selection. It seems pretty obvious that what these kids really need are a huge dose of mental resilience. Seriously I don't remember having to give up, or at least trying to give up the subjects that I was assigned to, no matter how I hated the subject matter, or the teacher, or both, when I was their age. I think for most of those in my age group, what we did was just to suck it up, go through the paces, and just 'bash through the wall'!

But this time round, things are happening differently! At the sight or at the mere hint of difficulty with the subject area, or even at the very thought of just even disliking the teacher that teaches the subject, guess what our students will do? Yeah, they would drop the subject! Lame reasons like: not interested in the subject, too much time to concentrate on the subject, and similar excuses, really seems to irk me at times, but no matter what, as far as possible we would try to accede to their requests! It is just that, at times to me, some of them are:

- really abusing the system of dropping the subjects, taking it as the easiest and fastest way out of doing work, or worst still, of really avoiding being put through their paces of really stretching their potential...they just do not seem to want their potentials stretched!
- asking their parents to talk to the teachers! I mean seriously, at the age of 16 and 17, don't you have the mental courage or necessary wherewithal to even put forth an articulate, logical and convincing argument about your 'case'. Do you really need to 'hide' behind your parents? I remember making my own decisions about which school to go to at the age of 12, and having the mental courage to want to choose what subjects I wanted to study at the age of 14-15. Seriously, I shudder to think, that when these students go on forth to their post-secondary institution, would they consider THAT easy way out too?

It can get frustrating at times to handles such cases or to be entertaining such issues, but I guess this is just part of parcel of how things would be, as we get to be a more inclusive profession. But what worries me even more is that if the society that we are currently moulding, the ones that are under our care right now, are not even ready to face a little bit of hardship, and lacking in what I call mental tenacity and resilience, and if things were to turn up just as bad like what we are experiencing right now with the economy, and if the 'Flatness' that I have been blogging about hits them, will they be able to survive? Maybe they really need a slight dose of realism in their lessons too!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Design Inundation

One of the key challenges that I have when talking or engaging my younger charges in the areas of design are their lack of exposure to what design is all about. It seems quite a challenge at times to make them 'see' deeper into what design is all about, 'listen' to what design has to offer from my exchanges with them, and to get them really into the groove of things and see to it that when they go away after the lessons, they will be 'enlightened' about how design is affecting or will affect them. But hey, I am relishing every moment of it...bearing in mind that sometimes it will take somewhat of a drastic measure at times to really make sure that some things just stays with them for a little while longer. Taking a leaf off how children learn their multiplication table, perhaps some form of a 'drilling' routine of sorts will actually be good for these charges of mine, but not of the rote learning that perhaps all of us, in our much younger days, are exposed to when we are required to learn our mathematical tables, but perhaps of a similar nature.

I was merely thinking that perhaps the design equivalent of such an endeavour will be good. Something that perhaps I would like to 'nickname' a Design Inundation of all things design, this could be a single session, or a series of sessions, in which my young charges are constantly being 'bombarded' by designerly stuffs, about how things are designed, about what design is all about, and more importantly about how design does affect them in more ways than they can think of. More importantly, such an exposure should be made to engage and 'touch' them on a visceral level, the level of which I think it will be more successful for any knowledge nugget to be retained inside their grey matter. And I think it should go beyond just the theoretical practices and coverage of what design is about, but also includes the multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted nature of design, about how design can be the unifying factor of what the other subject disciplines have to offer, and about how design can make and break a culture (think iPod), an economy (think what Chocolate and watches have done for the Swiss) or even a civilisation (think of what paper has done to the Chinese)...and I think you know what I am trying to arrive at!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do Schools Kill Creativity

This is a wonderful video from that was recommended by one of my readers/commenters. Thanks to him, I have a better appreciation of what education is all about, and about what creativity and intelligence really mean. It will take time to revolutionise the mankind's mental models on what education is all about, but unless we try and do something about it, we will never ever get to celebrate fully the hope that our children bring into our lives, from their education. Clip taken from here. Enjoy...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Uninstalling applications in Mac

Although the Mac OS platform is known for its simplicity in removing applications, by just the mere 'thrashing' of its single application file, nonetheless there are application files of some applications that will still 'linger' around way after the main application file has been deleted, ala the Windows platorm.

And this is where the freeware application called AppZapper is a godsend. Installing it is a breeze, and it doesn't take a huge amount of real estate space in your hard disks. Just activate it, move the required application that needs to be removed into the windows (see picture), click ok to remove all of the removed application's files, and walla, all is done. Try it!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Drawing Development in Children - A design educator's perspective

As I was researching for materials on teaching and learning about design, little did I realise this need to also consider the artistic development of my charges, as I move into looking at their overall level of designerly intelligence, or what I shall call their Design Quotient (DQ). It is interesting to note that there are indeed a few literature that deals with the topic on a child's artistic and sketching development, but there are even fewer...if any at all, that deals specifically with using their sketching ability to explain their designerly thoughts! One site that I saw reveals a very interesting yet easily understood table of sorts ( on the drawing development of children, the screenshot as shown below.

What I am curious to know is how children develop their design thinking, and what better way to explain their understanding of the design process than through the medium of expression offered by sketching and drawing. Nothwithanding their rather limited ability to offer at least a basic degree of realism in their sketches, but what i am more concerned here is not so much of the realism of these ideas, as to the ability to put onto paper their thoughts and as far as design is concerned.

I do remember sketching out a bulky design of a wrist-band-like contraption that will enable its user to 'shoot' short arrows tied to strings, using springs...after being inspired by watching the TV version of Spiderman, back when I was just a 7-year old Primary 1 student! Now what I am curious is what goes through the mind of similarly-aged children, or even older, when they pencil down their sketches. Was there any design enlightenment when they sketch out those sketches? Details...what about the details that they put in into their sketches? Does these reveal a lot more about these children, especially so about their ability to see things beyond just the obvious? Give me some time to dwell on this a little further, and I do hope to be able to offer a little bit more.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Should Designers Study?

As I was researching for materials on the teaching and learning of design, and about design, I came across this article which I do find an enjoyable short read. I hope you do enjoy it. It's taken from here:

What Should Designers Study?
by Martha Retallick, "The Passionate Postcarder"

Young people who are contemplating a design career often seek advice on
what they should study. To them I say, "Anything and everything!" Why do I offer this advice? Because you never know when something you've learned may come in handy.

Here in Arizona, there has been much controversy surrounding Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's recent suggestion that fourth-year high school math should be dropped as a state university admission requirement. Mr. Horne was even quoted in the newspaper as saying that calculus and trigonometry are not useful to most adults.

Permit me to share the story of a recent problem I encountered in my
graphic design practice: I was designing a postcard, and wanted to add an accent to the lettering in the card. But nothing I tried had the right look. So, I decided to apply a bit of knowledge that I'd gained in a college calculus class taken more than a quarter century ago. Viola, the accent came out perfectly.

Okay, so you might be asking, "Why should I take advice on calculus from a designer?" Why, indeed. Perhaps you'd rather take a doctor's advice on classical music. Permit me to introduce you to our consulting physician, Benjamin Carson, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

He grew up in the ghettoes of Detroit and Boston, and was, by his own
admission, the dumbest kid in his class until the fifth grade. That's when his mother decided to restrict the amount of television Ben and his brother, Curtis, watched. She believed that the boys' heavy TV viewing
habits were having a negative effect on their grades. This made Ben and
Curtis very unhappy.

Even worse, Mean Old Mom made the two boys read two books a week. And they had to give her a written report on what they had learned.
For Ben, the payoff came one day in science class. The teacher had brought a shiny black rock, and only one kid knew what it was. Not only did Ben correctly identify the rock as obsidian, he also described how the rock was created through volcanic activity. Both the teacher and the class were amazed. And Ben Carson turned into a knowledge junkie. By seventh grade, he was the top student in his class.

In high school, his TV viewing was still restricted, but Ben took quite a
liking to a quiz show called "College Bowl." He dreamed of going to college
and participating in the show. But "College Bowl" had two categories where he wasn't an expert: fine art and classical music. As he writes in his book Think Big, "[W]hat would a poor, black kid from a lower economic background in Detroit know about those two areas?"

So, he started visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts, and listening to the
local classical music station. "My friends thought I was weird," he recalls.
Alas, "College Bowl" went off the air before Ben Carson had a chance to
enter the competition. But, when he interviewed for a residency position at Johns Hopkins, he was delighted to find that the neurosurgery training program director was a classical music buff. In fact, they had both attended the same concert the night before.

Again from Think Big, he recalls, "We discussed the concert, moved into a
discussion of classical music in general, and soon the time allotted for
the interview ran out. I was one of the two interns accepted into the
neurosurgery residency program." Ben Carson's knowledge of classical music also helped him impress a fellow Detroiter who later became his wife. Ben and Candy Carson have three sons, who perform in the Carson Four string quartet with their mother.

The moral of my story is that no knowledge is ever wasted. So, study
anything and everything!